What would happen if you invited the most promising designers from the world's best design schools to participate in a single exhibition? It'd probably look a lot like Dubai's new Global Grad Show
Pulling in graduates from the likes of MIT, London's Royal College of Art, Hong Kong PolyU, National University of Singapore and Eindhoven University of Technology, the new exhibition promises to showcase "the most innovative projects from the world's leading design schools."
The 50 selected finalists' designs include self-driving sleeping pods, "ghost" furniture, a luxury yacht that cleans the ocean, a helicopter hacked from Ikea furniture, and a mirror that will show what you look like on the inside.
It launches on the opening day of the inaugural Dubai Design Week, a festival aiming to drum-up momentum around Dubai's purpose-built creative neighborhood D3 and help establish the emirate city as a prominent hub on the global design scene.
One of the designs is a kit that allows children to help in the discovery of new antibiotics Credit: courtesy Vidhi Mehta
American author and designer Brendan McGetrick, who selected the finalists, says he looked for projects that go beyond simple aesthetics: "Design exhibitions often fixate on style alone -- a lamp or chair, for instance, that looks beautiful, or simply unusual, but doesn't provide a fundamentally different experience or benefit from any other lamp or chair.
"In the case of Global Grad Show, many of the exhibits are attempting to apply design to open up new possibilities or to meet currently unmet needs. Since many of them are prototypes, the objects themselves are not always aesthetically refined, but each contains within it a new idea and thus an insight into life now and in the future. "
See all the designs in the gallery at the top. Here, McGetrick explains the fresh perspective that this new generation bring to the design table.
I think it's essential for students to also be producing ideas that aren't immediately applicable -- or even possible
Curator Brendan McGetrick
Are today's design students more interested in solving social and technological problems than previous generations?
Brendan McGetrick: It's difficult to say if they are more or less interested, but I do think we're in a moment when there is a large amount of faith in the power of new technologies -- so the students' levels of ambition tend to be high and the possible audience very large.
This is also a time when the models developed in the 20th century are obviously unsustainable, but their replacements have yet to solidify, so there is room for imagination and dreaming about issues that are of huge consequence, such as energy, aging, pollution, etc.
I think it's essential for students to work on these problems, because the schools remain a bastion of free thought, where students are allowed to design solutions that don't necessarily follow the dictates of the free market. Although design is ultimately meant to be practical, I think it's essential for students to also be producing ideas that aren't immediately applicable -- or even possible -- but expand the scope of how people see a problem.
These sorts of projects move the needle in terms of culture and they are more likely to come from a school than a professional studio or multinational corporation. Schools generally instill an idea that design is a force for good and I think the projects in the show reflect that.
How could this new generation of graduates make the world a better place?
I think it's important that the popular understanding of what design is and what a designer does expands beyond its current limitations. Design is still thought by most to be about making interesting looking things, rather than solving problems or expanding possibilities.
My hope would be that this new generation will resist being confined to the standard set of design disciplines -- fashion, graphics, architecture, etc. -- and insist on an enlarged definition of design that can incorporate more of human experience and need, and demonstrate how central design should be to addressing them.